Martin Miller Interview – The Entrepreneurial, Gin Renaissance Man!
Martin Miller has a strong passion for living and has lived a very successful and elegant lifestyle.
As a multi-millionaire, Martin Miller seems to have that magical, midas touch and it seems everything he touches … turns to gold.
Mr. Miller’s entrepreneurial drive is very evident from his mail-order dating and antique guide books, to opening boutique hotels and of course, his famous Martin Miller’s gin.
We had the proud opportunity to interview Martin Miller and appreciate him taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk.
- Q: First of all Mr. Miller, how would you describe yourself ?
- A: Oh, start with an easy one. It’s not something I give a lot of thought to. Although, one recent description of me as ‘a cross between Oscar Wilde and Willy Wonka’ very much amused my close friends. If you were to ask me to come up with a single word I’d say, iconoclastic. That’s most certainly true of me in the ‘mould breaking’ sense of the word. If I see a mould I can’t help but want to break it.
- Q: Your entrepreneurial spirit is quite obvious. Where do you think it comes from ?
- A: Well, a lot of it comes from the restless spirit I have, and a constant desire to swim against the current. Never follow the herd I say. Back in 1998 when I started the Martin Millers Gin project, everyone thought I was mad. Everyone told me I should be doing vodka. My was belief was then, as it is now; does the world need another vodka? The answer then, same as now, most definitely not. Gin on the other hand was in a parlous condition, it needed saving. Of course now, there are more weird and wonderful gins out there than there are vodkas. Maybe its time to save vodka!
- Q: How did you initially get involved in the antique industry ?
- A: Making four posters beds for resale at auctions. I saw a need for impartial advice on valuation – one based on the actual price typical antiques could be expected to fetch at auctions. Up until then people relied on the opinion of less than partial ‘experts’. I wanted to shake things up a bit.
- Q: What was your inspiration to open your boutique hotels ?
- A: I am an inveterate collector. I guess I got too close to the trade and got hooked. I’m an antiques junkie. I have an employee full time to keep up with my auction addiction. Basically, I needed somewhere to put my antiques and the idea of creating a small chain of boutique hotels that were an antidote to those ‘Zen like’ minimalist hotels sprang to mind.
- Q: After transitioning from antiques and hotels to your own Martin Miller’s Gin, what’s the story behind how that happened ?
- A: I’ve sort of touched on that already, but it was while sharing a gin and tonic with two of my friends. Basically, we had been served the typical G&T available at the time; an inferior gin, gun tonic, a slice of preserved lemon, and this being England, one cube of ice. It was just sad. At that time the G&T was for the gin; no-one was using it for cocktails. There was a plague of faux martinis made with vodka, and terrible fruit based concoctions with vodka at their heart – if you can call it a heart. Something had to be done. I guess I’m the self styled, gin Renaissance man!
- Q: What short-term and long-term goals and objectives have you established for yourself?
- A: Right now the gin is my priority, and its keeping me very busy. Martin Miller’s is pretty much available world wide, we are particularly strong in Spain, who are the world’s great gin connoisseurs, and in the luxury markets of Asia. The US is still very much a work in progress for us. Short term, I really want to get the brand more widely known in the US. It’s strange to us, but here we’re seen as newcomers, when in fact we were the very first of the so called ‘super premium’ gins, and have been in the States since 2003. Long term? Quality and integrity will count, and I see the brand growing strongly here in the next couple of years.
- Q: Looking at your career, what do you believe are the three keys to your business success?
- A: I don’t know about keys, but certainly some of my colleagues often feel I’ve lost the combination! If there was a key I’d say it was ‘always question pre-conceived ideas and beliefs’ – in short, when they zig, I zag.
- Q: With so many successes, what has been your most rewarding accomplishment?
- A: By far my gin. For no other reason than that at all levels it was the most challenging. We started very naively – lone voices and produced the best possible gin we could with no regard to the costs or commercial considerations. That alone required orchestrating many different skills and disciplines. Then when it took off and starting winning all the gold medals and prizes we had to realize this was no longer a vanity project – it was serious. That was when the real hard work started, I can tell you.
- Q: Regarding your various businesses, what challenges are you most concerned with for the future ?
- A: The future. Always difficult to call. I guess, in truth, it’s here already. Managing the growth of a brand whose roots lie in a personal passion and ensuring that, as it grows, no compromises to the original concept in taste or integrity are compromised. That’s going to be enough to keep anyone busy.
- Q: Lastly, for anybody who wants to become a successful entrepreneur, what advice can you offer ?
- A: Don’t follow the herd. If you see a bandwagon, don’t get on it. It’s passed already.